This year’s Oscar race is proving to be one of the most competitive in recent years. With Gravity and 12 Years a Slave already announcing themselves as major frontrunners in multiple categories, well-received smaller dramas duking it out to overtake the top spot, and films from Martin Scorsese and David O. Russell still on the way, there’s not a lot of breathing room. Perhaps that’s why we’ve already seen a number of would-be contenders get the heck out of Dodge and move to 2014 with the latest being George Clooney’s World War II drama The Monuments Men.
The pic had all the staples of an Academy favorite, but with its release now shifted to next February, which of the other contenders might benefit from its absence? We discuss that and more in this week’s edition of Oscar Beat after the jump.
While The Monuments Men is fresh on everyone’s minds as the latest film to be pushed to 2014 at the last minute, a couple of other possible contenders jumped ship over that past few months. The Weinstein Company’s Nicole Kidman-fronted biopic Grace of Monaco was moved to Spring 2014 last month, and following the leak of a truly stellar first trailer, Sony Pictures Classics opted to move Bennett Miller’s drama Foxcatcher to an unspecified date in 2014. Both moves were officially made to give the filmmakers more time in the editing room, but it’s no coincidence that the films were facing some heavy competition from a very crowded awards race.
The move of The Monuments Men was made in order to give the film’s team more time to finish up the visual effects, but Clooney himself admitted he felt more comfortable releasing the picture in February where the pressure of awards contention would be lifted. The film’s trailers promised a movie that was considerably lighter in tone than Clooney’s recent directorial efforts, and while the film surely would have garnered some sort of Oscar attention, the director can now focus on pleasing audiences without worrying about awards reception.
However, the move of The Monuments Men to 2014 could have repercussions for the rest of the Oscar race. Should the film have opened in December and made good on its promise of a lighter romp (mixed in with some serious World War II drama as well), the Academy may have sparked to the movie as a foil to the deadly serious tones of films like 12 Years a Slave, Gravity, and Captain Phillips. With Monuments Men out of the picture, it’s possible a couple of the more comedy-geared contenders will benefit from not splitting the “lighter movie” vote, namely Russell’s American Hustle and Scorsese’s black comedy The Wolf of Wall Street.
Though no one has actually seen American Hustle or The Wolf of Wall Street just yet, Russell’s films always have a touch of humor to them (as gleaned in the trailer) and we already have confirmation that Wall Street will compete in the Best Musical/Comedy category at the Golden Globes, so it’s fair to say both films are just a smidge lighter than a decade-long plight into slavery or drifting into the abyss of outer space.
With Monuments Men now gone, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Academy take a stronger liking to one or both of these films. Disney’s Saving Mr. Banks, which chronicles the studio’s road to making Mary Poppins, is another film that could benefit from Monuments Men’s absence, as is Alexander Payne’s well-received Nebraska.
This is not to say the Academy has a certain threshold for the amount of “comedic” films it will allow in the Best Picture race, but historically the votes trend towards the dramatic side of things. As such, one less “lighter” film in the race increases the odds of films like American Hustle, The Wolf of Wall Street, Saving Mr. Banks, and Nebraska breaking into the major categories. Will any of them have the goods to go all the way? It’s still too early to tell, but the race is far from over.
Click on over to Page 2 for an updated list of my predictions for the 2014 Oscars.